Book Review: Our Way Back to Always by Nina Moreno

Our Way Back to Always by Nina Moreno

Posted April 15, 2022 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Our Way Back to Always

Our Way Back to Always

by Nina Moreno

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 19, 2021
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC Authors, BIPOC Character(s), Columbian Authors, Cuban Authors, Latino/a/x/e Authors, Latino/a/x/e Character(s)
Content Warnings: Car Accident, Death of Parent, Grief, Injury, Medical Content, Pregnancy

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

Luisa (Lou) Patterson grew up across the street from Sam Alvarez in the small, quirky town of Port Coral. They used to be inseparable--spending every holiday together, shooting silly YouTube videos, and rescuing stray cats. But then middle school happened, including the most disastrous (and embarrassing) serenade ever, and Lou and Sam haven't talked in the four years since. Sam is now the golden boy with plenty of friends, while Lou is an introverted romantic who's happy playing video games and writing fan fiction. But it's also the summer before their senior year, and life is knocking on Lou's door.

With her older sister having given up a scholarship to Princeton to have a baby and work at the local botanica, all of their mother's expectations are now riding on Lou's shoulders. She's retaking her SAT's, signed up for way too many AP classes, and her sights set on colleges with fancy names like Duke and Vanderbilt. But when she finds the bucket list she and Sam wrote together as kids, before Sam's father was diagnosed with cancer, she's shocked to see that she hasn't accomplished any of the goals she'd set for herself. Go to a party? Nope. Pull the greatest prank of all time? Still no. Learn how to be a really good kisser? Definitely not.

Torn between the future that her mother, sister, and younger self planned for her, Lou sets out to finish the list, and in a stroke of destiny or fate, Sam decides to tag along. Still trying to stay afloat amid the grief of losing his father, Sam himself is staring down a future that feels all too close, and is coming far too fast. But with the bucket list to guide them, Sam and Lou might just be able to find a way through the future, and also a way back to each other.


As much as I complain about romance books, I’m a sucker for the-boy-next-door trope. Throw in a sprinkle of the-one-that-got-away, and I’ll be absolutely hooked. A quick glance at the book’s description and the cover design and it would seem Our Way Back to Always is out of my normal reading realm. In fact, I was dragging my feet getting to this book because I thought I wouldn’t like it. Thank you Past Me for knowing better, pre-ordering this, and making sure I read it. It was a great book to escape into.

Like so many YA contemporaries, Our Way Back to Always starts the summer before senior year. We meet Lou – Luisa – who is struggling to fulfill her own high expectations and trying to get into an elite college. We also meet Sam, whose future plans have been scrambled by his father’s recent death. Both POV characters struggle under the weight of expectation, whether it be the world’s or their own. Both characters are likable, and I appreciated the internal and external struggles that motivated them. The romance was well-founded, and I really enjoyed watching an old friendship rekindle.

Where Moreno excelled in building her protagonists, her supporting characters were a bit less enticing. Both Rocky and Benny were functional characters at best, existing only to help Sam and Lou along their journey. Sam’s family serves in a similar manner, as does most of Lou’s. The only supporting character who had depth and purpose was Elena, Lou’s older sister. After finishing Our Way Back to Always, I learned this is the second book in Marino‘s contemporary universe. If she were to write a third book, I would want to know Elena’s story.

The plot moves at a steady pace, with plenty of landmarks and side quests to keep things interesting. If anything, there was a little bit too much going on and sections felt rushed or underdeveloped. As somebody who is interested in coding and female coders, I was disappointed we didn’t delve further into Lou’s app. Similarly, marching band is described as one of Sam’s joys early in the book, but fades into the background as he takes a different path (except the fact he plays drums – that stays relevant). I liked that the little bits and pieces of the bucket list kept the story moving, but Moreno relies on the reader getting caught up in the adventure and not noticing how shallow some aspects of the plot are.

Stylistic criticisms aside, I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. I liked the complicated emotions and I think Moreno did an excellent job relaying the experience of somebody who fell in love with their best friend. I liked that Our Way Back to Always encouraged folks to take a less traditionally celebrated road to success. Our culture is extremely determined to enforce a rigid set of expectations upon young adults, but we need to recognize these expectations are not the only stepping stones to a good life. Moreno reminds us of that in her story and I adored it.

This book made me smile, made me sad, made me wish I had a private swimming pool, and made me want to build a treasure hunt. Our Way Back to Always is more than a light, fun beach read. In the guise of YA romance, this contemporary novel explores themes of familial responsibility, grief, and self acceptance. I really liked it, and I can certainly see myself reading it again.

Setting

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pacing

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Plot

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Writing

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Personal Enjoyment

Rating: 4 out of 5.

No Bad Apples Here!

According to my research, this author has not written any books condoning problematic behaviors, does not have a problematic history wherein they have (through intention or ignorance) insulted or hurt marginalized communities, and does not use their platform to speak out in hate against others, nor have they performed any known damaging or illegal acts. For now, I’m very pleased to encourage you to support this author and their works (but please check the content warnings before reading)!

Our Way Back to Always Stays on the Shelf

This books made me love the protagonists and wish for my own ordinary adventure and lost friends. Definitely a re-reader so it stays.

send me your thoughts

Did you ever fall for the person next door (or across the street) from you?

If not, how did you meet your first crush?

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

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Other Books Published in October 2021

5 books found
The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Cappetta

★★★★½

ExtraOrdinary by V. E. Schwab

★★★★

Our Way Back to Always

★★★★

Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu

★★


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